What are the oldest things that we still use today?fev 28 2023
By Marcos Chiquetto
Among all of mankind’s creations, what are the oldest things that we still use today?
— At my grandmother’s house, there is a chair that must be 100 years old.
— While traveling in Europe, I saw a 400-year-old castle that people were still living in.
— The cathedral of Notre Dame is almost 900 years old and is still being used to celebrate mass and receive tourists.
It’s true. There are many old things still in use today, especially in regions where civilizations developed long ago and have continued uninterrupted until today, such as in Europe, India and China.
But in our day-to-day lives, we all use much older things without even realizing it
— What things are these? I can`t think of any.
I’m referring to words, primarily the most simple or basic ones.
For example: “sun”.
Looking up the word “sun” in an etymological dictionary, we see that it comes from the word “sunnōn”, from the Proto-Germanic language. But it actually comes from an even more distant past, with roots in the ancient Indo-European language, which is the language that gave birth to Greek and Latin.
But who created this word? There is no way to know, but it is believed that it was spoken by very ancient groups, perhaps 3 or 4 thousand years ago. Two hundred generations before ours, when someone would point to that bright orb in the sky, they would already speak something like “sun”.
Had you ever thought of that before?
The same is true about words such as “moon”, “sea”, etc. Short, simple words that describe basic, concrete concepts. These are certainly incredibly old words, used for thousands and thousands of years, undergoing transformations until they arrived at their current forms.
Meanwhile, more complex words generally aren’t created spontaneously in the same way, and aren’t so ancient, having been created by more recent civilizations. For example, the word “hippopotamus” was created by the Greeks to describe an animal that they encountered in Africa, joining hippos, “horse”, with potamos, “river”. Thus, it was a horse that lived in rivers: a word created by a sophisticated civilization, with an advanced culture that classified objects and gave them composite names. The older words that designated this same animal thousands of years before the Greeks, like mvuvu, kubu and mvubu, which are still used in some regions of Africa even today, were never incorporated into the English language.
What fascinates me are the short, basic words.
When you say “sun”, “moon” or “sea”, do it with respect and reverence. Remember that you are making use of an ancient thing, which humans have been using for millennia.
Marcos Chiquetto is an engineer, Physics teacher, translator, and writer. He is the director of LatinLanguages, a Brazilian translation agency specialized in providing multilingual companies with translation into Portuguese and Spanish.